Rescue Ink, the Army to the Animals Speaks One-on-One with THE NEW BARKER.

It started out innocently enough. Well sort of. Nine real-life tattooed tough guys from various New York neighborhoods – Brooklyn, Queens, Ozone Park and Howard Beach. Witnessing acts of cowardice going down against animals, they began to take matters into their own hands. Don’t pick on the little guy. Don’t try to assert your supposed toughness on a weaker creature like a defenseless dog. And, don’t be a bully.

The guys who comprise this unorthodox rescue group called Rescue Ink, have zero tolerance for animal abuse. And it’s not an act, which becomes very apparent during a conversation with any one of them, which The New Barker did by phone on November 6, 2010.

Anna Cooke, editor of The New Barker with Bailey at the 2010 Humane Society Tampa Bay Bark in the Park, Al Lopez Park, Tampa. Photography by Danette.
“Oh, we had to clean up the language a bit for publication,” said The New Barker editor, Anna Cooke. “But they are who they are, and that came across loud and clear even over the phone,” she added. Cooke interviewed the guys just after they’d finished marching in a National Pit Bull Awareness Day Parade in Austin, Texas. “There were 500 Pit Bull mixes registered to march with them that day,” added Cooke.

Joe Panz, one of the founding members of Rescue Ink told Cooke, “Look, we were the toughest guys in the neighborhood, so anytime anyone had a problem, they’d come to us. Back in the day, rescue groups were mostly comprised of women, and they started coming to us for help. All I can tell you is, whenever we arrived on the scene, we were pretty convincing. Still are.”

Reports and word of mouth began circulating, comparing the group to Robin Hood. And not the men-in-tights Robin Hood. No, we’re talking cigar chomping, hot rod and motorcycle-loving dudes, several of whom also have a passion for maintaining their ‘big guns.’ Joe’s particular workout schedule clocks in at a minimum of three hours a day.

It didn’t take long for the media like The New York Times to hone in on the group.
“They asked if they could come spend a day with us. They ended up following us around for three days,” said Joe. And things really took off after that.

Joe Panz, a founding member of Rescue Ink. He knows how loyal dogs can be. When he was shot five times, his Rottweiler remained by his side through that long night. "Your life is only as good as your word," he said.
Now the group fields between 200 and 300 calls per day. Requests for help come from all around the world, reporting cases of abuse, neglect or animal torture. If the guys can’t get to a case themselves, they call on their vast network of friends they’ve amassed over the last six years.

Their television gig with National Geographic for a season was a blessing and a curse. It brought the group exposure, but the public’s misconception is that the guys are now wealthy as a result.

To say they have each other’s backsides is an understatement. Each of these guys knows what the other is capable of doing. But violence is the last thing on their minds. “Anyone can use violence, but that doesn’t do anyone any good. You gotta be tough enough not to be scared to talk your way out of any situation. We call it peace with superior firepower. We do whatever is necessary within the law,” said Joe.

When they appear on the scene of abuse or neglect, their objective is to fix the problem, not take the animal away. They know the person involved in the abuse or neglect case will just get another dog.

The guys, who have had their own run-ins with the law, realize they’re in no position to judge. “We’re not the authority. But everyone deserves a second chance. Hey, we got one.”

As a fully functioning rescue group, Rescue Ink has veterinarians on call 24 hours a day to help out as needed. Their 25-acre rehabilitation center is run by Mary Fayet. They call her their Den Mom. “We also call her home ‘the land of broken toys.’ She has all these small dogs in various stages of health and rehabilitation that she takes care of,” said Joe.

Their Junior Pet Detective Program is directed towards kids. “We talk to them, discourage them from getting involved in gangs. We talk about bullying and tell them to stick up for the little guy. We tell them to champion those who can’t defend themselves. We tell them it is better to be admired than to be feared,” Joe said.

Big Ant has a house full of rescues, from rabbits to cats to Pit Bulls.
Big Ant, another founding member, added, “We’re just doing what we do. People listen to us. One way or the other, we’re gonna be heard.”

The guys consider themselves the rescue group for the rescue groups. “A lot of these groups, they think and act with their hearts, not their heads. And please, leave your egos at the door. It’s not about your rescue group or you. It’s about the dogs needing help. How are we going to fix a situation? That’s what keeps me going.”

Emotions run high with this band of brothers, but they believe that with every change, it’s one step forward in the right direction.

“When you think you’ve seen the worst, along comes something else that’s even worse. The laws have to be changed,” said the third founding member, John O, whose significant other is involved with a rescue group herself. He takes comfort in being with his family and kids. “My parents, they’re 83 years old and they still make me laugh,” he said.

"We've sacrificed a lot to keep this thing together," Johnny O told The New Barker.
He adds, “We can’t help everyone. We can’t save every dog. We have to just take each case as it comes. There are a lot of whacked out people out there. But I look at it this way…I’m able to sleep at night. It’s all okay because what goes around, believe me, definitely comes around.”

Rescue Ink is coming to Tampa Bay, March 4-6 as guests of Florida Boxer Rescue, The New Barker dog magazine, Fletcher’s Harley-Davidson, Bon Appetit Restaurant, Humane Society of Tampa Bay and Hillsborough County Animal Services. Dubbed the Humane Highway Tour, Rescue Ink will be making special appearances at Al Lopez Park, Tampa and Honeymoon Island State Park, Dunedin.

Field of Dreams and Other Dog-Worldly Events.

There are three days left of this year’s Florida Classic Clusters in Brooksville. THE NEW BARKER is once again honored to have been part of this two-week, all breed dog show. Today we hung out with the Junior Handlers. What a dedicated, energetic and genuinely nice group of kids. And their dogs seemed just as happy to be prancing around the ring with them. The show runs through Sunday from 8a to 5p. Get there early and catch the excitement. Free behind-the-scene show tours; get up close and personal with professional groomers in the grooming tents. Florida Classic Park is located at 5360 Lockhart Road, east of Brooksville.

A Rather Special Wine Tasting.
THE NEW BARKER and ISJ Productions are hosting a wine tasting on Friday, January 21 to benefit St. Petersburg’s Pet Pal Animal Shelter. The event will be at American Spirits, 230 3rd Street South in St. Petersburg from 7p until 9p. American Spirits will be pouring samples from between 15 to 20 of 2011’s best wine buys. Hors d’ oeuvres will also be served. Call 727.328.7738 for more information.

Also on Friday, January 21, SONO Cafe is hosting their monthly Yappy Hour. The Cafe serves up some of the most delicious food in the Bay Area. Great setting, overlooking the Curtis Hixon Dog Park at 120 West Gasparilla Plaza in Tampa. Yappy Hour will be from 6p-8p.

Rally to Rescue. Let’s Send These Dogs Homeward Bound.
Are you looking to add another dog or cat to your household? The Rally to Rescue adoption event in Pinellas Park will be your best bet on Saturday, January 22. More than 20 breed specific rescue groups will be on hand with their adoptables. There will be demonstrations and pet vendors. Learn more about rescue groups, what these volunteers do and how to become a volunteer foster pet parent yourself. Rally to Rescue will be from 10a until 2p at Pet Supplies Plus, 7331 Park Boulevard North in Pinellas Park.

For more dog-friendly events, visit
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Have fun this weekend and remember to dog responsibly.

Dogs and People Living Together.

Dig it…here’s the scoop from THE NEW BARKER on dogs, Yappy Hour at Cappuccino’s Cafe in Dunedin, Scottish Terriers, Manatee County Animal Services and PugZ Bar & Grill.

Furever Plaid.
What do you get when you put a group of Scottish Terriers together with their humans? A whole lot of Plaiditude. On January 9th THE NEW BARKER and Cappuccino’s Altro Posto Cafe in Dunedin hosted the Scottish Terrier Club of Tampa Bay during the monthly Happy Yappy Hour. And, there was plenty of Tartan swirling around as this fun and feisty breed socialized with one another.

Alas, while it was too cold for any of the men to brave wearing kilts, there were more than a few Scotties who donned some handsome plaid dog wear. The gathering was an eclectic group that included several champion Scottish Terriers, experienced agility competitors and a rescued puppy mill breeder dog. The event raised around $500 for the Club’s own rescue group.

“It was so much fun that we’ve already booked the event for next January,” said volunteer and Rescue Coordinator, Janet Skinner. Rescue groups interested in having a Happy Yappy Hour booked can call Cappuccino’s Cafe at 727.738.8009. There are some Sunday openings still available, but they do go pretty fast.

Thinking Outside the Crate.
What do you get when government officials and their constituents communicate by putting creative ideas on the table? A solution that will help save more dogs and cats from euthanasia. That’s exactly what happened less than a year ago, when Animal Services of Manatee County floated a concept to the county commissioners that would make adoptable dogs and cats more accessible to the public. The idea came to fruition and just this week, on January 10th, Manatee County Animal Services opened its new Adoption Center at 305 25th Street West, Downtown Bradenton. The vacant space in a county-owned building is a visible, bright and airy storefront that should get plenty of foot traffic. “We’re convenient to folks who work Downtown and might want to stop in during their lunch breaks,” said Animal Services Chief, Kris Weiskopf.

Kris explained to THE NEW BARKER that Manatee County Animal Services has transfer agreements with about 60 animal welfare groups around Tampa Bay and beyond. “In 2009 Manatee County’s euthanasia rate was at 61%. In 2010 it dropped to 55%. We want to continue lowering those numbers and we see the storefront as one solution that can help us reach our goal.”

KuDOGs to Manatee County Animal Services for such an innovative initiative. It’s this type of progressive thinking (which by the way did not necessitate additional funding) that makes a difference in the positive growth of a community. Shown above are two dogs that were available at the Adoption Center’s opening on Monday: Mazda and Jésus.

PUGz Paying it Forward
Dunedin has yet another dog-friendly eating and drinking establishment. PUGz Bar & Grill has embraced the dog community and the dog community has certainly embraced them. During the holidays the restaurant collected donations for Dunedin Dog Rescue under their Christmas tree.

Stay Pup-to-Date on dog-friendly events by visiting THE NEW BARKER calendar and also by signing up for Weekend PupDates. You’ll receive a current list of dog-friendly events a couple of times a month. Some hot dog-friendly events this weekend: Florida Classic Clusters/Brooksville; Cocktails for a Cause/Mise en Place/Tampa; Dogs Dig Downtown Bradenton; Barkarilla at Gaspar’s Grotto/Ybor City; Mutts & Martinis/Tavares.

Need more? Be sure to subscribe to the one Florida lifestyle magazine devoted to dogs and their dog-loving human companions. THE NEW BARKER is a quarterly magazine full of relevant stories, beautiful photos, travel and health tips and more. Each cover of THE NEW BARKER features an original piece of art by a different Florida artist, making each issue a collector’s item.

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